Spending time outdoors with your children can be really fun and it strengthens the relationship between you and your children. However, if you don’t want to hear that annoying phrase: Dad, mom, are we nearly there yet?, you should plan your hike wisely. Ask your children what they would like to do and see along the way, and then choose an appropriate destination. And remember that simple games can make the trip more enjoyable again in just a few minutes.
If you have taken the time to set some enjoyable and achievable goals then you’ll find that your children will provide much of the motivation themselves, but even the most up-for-it kids will find themselves flagging at some point of the day. This is where you need to use your years of parenting experience – you’ll know how far you can push things before bringing out the chocolate. The effect that a sit-down and a bite to eat can have on even the most truculent kid is amazing. If it’s cold or stormy, a group shelter is a very helpful piece of equipment at this stage. Hydration is vital too – make sure everyone’s drinking enough fluids because thirst leads to grumpiness and foot-dragging.
When everyone’s got some fuel on board, you can remind your kid of their goals, which is the reason that they are on that hillside with you in the first place, and what they have already achieved. For example, if you tell them they’re already at the 300m contour, this can make the remaining distance seem less daunting. You can say something like: “Hey, you’re 75% there already and you’ve only just now needed to sit down.” But remember, never lie about the distance left to walk as it’s annoying for your child and can break trust.
We, as adults, might be able to deal with many hours of hiking with little other activity besides eating and enjoying the view; however, kids need a little more variety to their experience. Simple games (see below) are a great way to make the walk more interesting and fun, and to re-energize flagging spirits.
GAMES TO PLAY DURING A WALK
- Hero poses
Stand on top of a conveniently sized boulder and do the most heroic (or silly) poses that you can. Take pictures for proof.
You don’t have to be on a bridge for this – simply choose a tree, rock, or other useful feature at the side of a stream or river to be the finish line. Grasses or soft rush or grasses work just as well as twigs. Advanced players may weave little boats from soft rush – an extremely enjoyable activity in itself.
- Nature art
Find leaves, stones, and similar and use them to create a picture – no uprooting or picking from live plants though. When everyone has admired the picture, disperse the materials back where they came from.
Make the most fragrant (or smelliest) concoction you can in a plastic cup, using only things that you can find within 20 paces. Take a spare cup for this game because you probably won’t want to drink from it afterwards!
“Rows and flows of angel hair / And ice cream castles in the air / And feather canyons everywhere / I’ve looked at clouds that way” … Or maybe they’ll just see animals.
Never underestimate the multiple uses of a simple stick in the imagination of a child, and a stout enough one is the ultimate old school trekking pole.